Opposition political parties, civil society and churches have taken the government head on and are challenging the recent ban on demonstrations in Harare, arguing it was a backdoor imposition of a State of Emergency.
National Electoral Reforms Agenda (Nera), Democratic Assembly for Restoration, Combined Harare Residents Association and Stendrink Zvorwadza, through their lawyer Tendai Biti, have applied to the High Court seeking the ban to be declared null and void.
ZRP officer commanding Harare district, Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri and Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo were cited as respondents.
In a certificate of urgency signed by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights member, Dzimbabwe Chimbga, the applicants argued that the ban was a backdoor imposition of a State of Emergency by President Robert Mugabe’s government
“The net effect of the ban of September 16 is to take away the rights that have been given and provided by the Constitution. It is a backdoor imposition of the State of Emergency,” Chimbga submitted.
In his founding affidavit, Zvorwadza accused Saunyama of violating the law after failing to listen to submissions by ordinary people, churches and political parties, to object the proposed ban.
Saunyama is accused of snubbing Nera legal secretary, Douglas Mwonzora, who had gone to his office to make presentations against the imposition of the ban.
“Thus, although there was an intimation of an invitation of representations from the public, Saunyama had no bonafide intention of listening to objections and had made up his mind anyway,” reads the statement.
“The right to be heard was not respected before and after issuance of the notice of prohibition on September 12 and 13 and after.”
He contends in his affidavit that since Saunyama did not follow laid down procedures and violated Section 3 of the Administration of Justice Act, his final order of banning marches was therefore null and void.
“The ban is invalid to the extent that it does not comply with section 3 of the Administration of the Justice Act, in that no reasons on the face of it of why the ban is being imposed… in other words, up to now, we do not know why the ban has been imposed,” Zvorwadza submitted.
In a separate application, Ancelimo Magaya on behalf of his Zimbabwe Divine Destiny church, also filed an urgent application under case 9470/16 at the Harare High Court on Friday challenging the ban, saying it violated the Constitution.
“Proclamation to ban marches effected on September 16 is in breach and ultra vires the provisions of Section 134 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe… that in any event the proclamation is in breach of the provisions of Sections 58, 59, 60, 61, 66 (2) and 67 of the Constitution,” reads part of the application.
In his founding affidavit, Magaya said his church intended to hold a peaceful march against police brutality and violence on September 23, and present a petition to Parliament.
He said his church march was not covered under the Public Order and Security Act, but it could be affected because of a blanket ban made by Saunyama.
Magaya said when Saunyama published his intention to proscribe and ban marches, his church lodged an objection against the ban but police never took notice of the objection.
“We as a church have our own separate issues which have nothing to do with the political processes of the country.
By imposing the ban in the manner that Chihuri [cited as second respondent] has done, he is denying us our right to freedom of expression, movement and association as defined in the Constitution,” reads part of Magaya’s application. According to Chimbga, both matters will be heard before Justice George Chiweshe tomorrow. standard